Violence Should End Before Starting Negotiations in Turkey, Former British PM Says
Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who sat together with the Irish Republican Army as it waged a guerrilla war against British rule in Ireland, said while Britain had preliminary talks with the IRA, it only negotiated when the violence had stopped.
"What we did in the UK was once the IRA agreed to give up violence, then we could negotiate. But when people are still engaged in terrorism it is very hard," Blair told the daily Hürriyet. "I mean, it is true that there were preliminary talks with the IRA but there was only a proper full-scale negotiation once they have given up violence."
Blair gave the following remarks on Turkey's fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, comparing it to Britain's struggle against IRA.
"We did not ask the IRA to surrender; we did not even ask them to get rid of their weapons to negotiate. But what we said to them was, 'You got to be clear that we are not meeting with a threat in the background that if we don't do what you say then you will start killing people. There has got to be an acceptance that it is peaceful means from now on.' We created a set of criteria for them being engaged in this peace process. Those criteria included and most important was giving up violence," he said.
"[Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] does not need my advice. He is perfectly capable of making up his mind himself. You got to judge that each situation is different. But in the end, you can only create peace with people who in their hearts are prepared to make peace. And the trouble with terrorism is that it creates a sense of hatred between communities and then it is very difficult. Whereas when the violence stops you are able to say, 'Let's sit together and talk this time.' If you are trying to talk with someone and come to an agreement and you know they are still trying to kill a member of your family, you are not going to talk to them," Blair added.
In response to a question about if there is a need for a third party for Turkey in terms of dealing with the PKK, Blair said: "This is between the Turkish government and the PKK. What we did was to use outside help, but we chose to use it. I don't think this is for a situation like Israel and Palestine where outside intervention is not useful."
NATO Radar Will Lure Iran to the Negotiation Table, Henry Kissinger Says
A sophisticated NATO radar system deployed on Turkish soil would force Iran into restarting negotiations on its nuclear program, former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said while also praising Ankara's role in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria.
"The radar system will be installed against a [possible] nuclear threat from Iran," Kissinger said during an investment conference held by private equity giant TPG Capital Wednesday. "But it will also serve as an instrument to bring Iran [closer] to constructive negotiations with the West."
When the agreement to deploy the missile shield was announced last month, U.S. officials described it as "the biggest strategic decision between the United States and Turkey in the past 15 or 20 years."
"Turkey and the United States have always been [on the same wavelength], taking the same side," said the 88-year-old Kissinger, a master practitioner of "realpolitik" -- diplomacy based primarily on power and practical considerations.
The radar system developed by the U.S. will complement 24 interceptor missiles to be based in Romania and will be installed at a military base in Malatya, about 700 kilometers from the Iranian border. A similar system has been operating in Israel for the past three years.
"There is no doubt that Turkey will play an important role regarding Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya," Kissinger said, noting that Turkey "has been acting in a constructive way" toward Syria. He said he supported Turkey's increasingly confrontational tone in warning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad about his regime's conduct toward its own people.
Kissinger, who served as the secretary of state under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, likened the "Arab Spring" to a tsunami, after which the difficulty of establishing highly representative governments floats to the surface.
"When a revolution occurs, different parts of society with different values and backgrounds come together and bundle into a huge tsunami," Kissinger said. "When the waves disappear and the water recedes, however, lingering problems come to the surface."
In a country like Egypt, which has a strong tradition of statecraft, it might be "easier to stabilize," Kissinger said. "However, if the country never had rules as a real state throughout its history, [the task] becomes harder."
Kissinger described Turkey as a country "among the rising stars of the world."
Turkey Welcomes Israeli-Palestinian Prisoner Swap Deal
Turkey on Wednesday welcomed a deal between Israel and Hamas in which a Franco-Israeli soldier, held for five years, is to be exchanged for more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners.
"We are happy," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said of the deal that will see the Palestinian militant group free Gilad Shalit, who they have held since 2006.
"The agreement that has been concluded is a good agreement," he said. "It is a positive development that will lower pressure" in the Middle East.
Turkey was ready to contribute to "any peaceful effort" that would allow people kept from their loved ones to find their families -- whether it be Shalit or the Palestinian prisoners, he said.
Turkey, in the past, had direct and indirect contact with both Israel and Hamas in a bid to free Shalit, Davutoğlu said.
Khaled Meshaal, Hamas' exiled political chief announced from Damascus on Tuesday that Israel would free 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, 27 of them women, in exchange for soldier Gilad Shalit.
Shalit was captured in a deadly cross-border raid on June 25, 2006 by militants from three Gaza-based groups including Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and a Salafi group called the Army of Islam.
Turkey Ends Deal with Russia's Gazprom, Iran Steps In
Iran said on Wednesday that it was ready to boost its gas exports to neighboring Turkey, after Turkish Botaş ended its deal with Russia's Gazprom, a senior official told the semi-official Mehr news agency.
"Turkey has previously had talks with Iran in regard to increasing the volume of our natural gas export. Iran is ready to boost its export upon the Turkey's request," said Javad Oji, managing director of the National Iranian Gas Company, or NIGC. "Iran's gas export to Turkey has increased by 12 percent from March and NIGC has averagely delivered more than 24 million cubic metres of natural gas to Turkish Botaş per day."
Oji also said Iran had the capacity to produces 600 million cubic metres of gas.
In early October, Turkish Botaş ended its contract with Russia's producer Gazprom for buying, annually, 6 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas due to pricing disagreement. When Oji asked about the possibility a price modification on Iran's exporting gas, he said the deal had "open conditions."
"Both sides have authority to hold talks over the price change based on the conditions and gas global market price, but, so far, no talks in this regards have been held," Oji said.
Iran has also excluded Gazprom from development of one of its major oil fields project.
Turkish Minister Chides EU for Greek Cyprus Condition
Turkey should normalize relations with Greek Cyprus, according to the European Union's annual progress report released announced Wednesday, but Turkey's EU minister said linking Turkey's membership to the Cyprus issue was a mistake.
Emphasizing that Turkey seeks full EU membership, and not a privileged membership, EU Minister Egemen Bağış blamed EU countries for "spoiling Greek Cyprus."
"The pace of accession negotiations would gain new momentum if Turkey proceeded to the full implementation of its customs-union obligations with the EU and made progress toward normalization of relations with Cyprus," the report said. "The deadlock will affect both sides."
In response to a question about whether Greek Cyprus would continue to search for natural recourses in the region, Bağış said that if they go deeper, then Turkish Cyprus would go deeper too.
"Turkey is not seeking a 'bravo' from EU countries for every step that the government makes," Bağış said, adding that progress is being made for the sake of the people of Turkey. The European Commission said Turkey needed to improve fundamental rights, particularly freedom of expression, to advance.
According to the Turkish minister, the annual report focused on problem areas, but ignored the real progress Turkey has made.
While noting that the report was aware of steps taken for the judiciary, Bağış said the structure of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK, was approved by the EU Commission. "The Ergenekon and "Balyoz" [Sledgehammer] cases are proof of the superiority of law in Turkey," Bağış said.
Turkey, Iraq Seek Further Measures Against Terror
Iraqi officials have presented Ankara with new proposals to curtail the activities of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in the country's north in a bid to head off Turkish cross-border operations against the militant group.
"We are discussing how to deepen our agreement on the struggle against terror. We have decided to strengthen a tripartite mechanism between Turkey, Iraq and the United States," Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Labeed Abbawi told private Turkish broadcaster NTV Wednesday, following meetings with Turkish Foreign Ministry officials in Ankara ahead of the arrival of Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
Zebari held meetings with President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu late Wednesday. Ahead of the talks with foreign ministers, Abbawi said Iraq was opposed to a Turkish military incursion into northern Iraq. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, however, said a cross-border operation could be considered, "if necessary."
Abbawi said they would take extra measures against the alleged PKK presence at the Makhmour refugee camp, a United Nations-camp in northern Iraq that Ankara claims is a prime recruiting ground for the Kurdish militants.
"We want the Makhmour Camp to be closed sooner or later. We'll give camp residents identity cards, so that will control entrances and exists," Abbawi said, adding that they made several proposals to Turkey for the return of refugees in the camp, but had yet to reach a solution.
Turkey has long been pressing for the closure of Makhmour, arguing that it is controlled by the PKK and serves as a supply base of fresh militants to the organization.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Answering a question on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's statement about sending Iraqi troops to the country's north, Davutoğlu said he thought the prime minister's statements were positive.
"If Iraq [guards] its own territories and borders, there is no need for Turkey to stage a cross-border operation," he said.
Davutoğlu said terrorism, along with a meeting of the bilateral cooperation council to be held in Turkey later this year, with the participation of al-Maliki, would be on the agenda of his talks with Zebari.
Indian Vice President Says Time to Bring Turkey, India Closer
The time is right for Turkey and India to seriously explore greater cooperation in a number of areas Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari said during his landmark six-day visit to Turkey, which started on Monday.
"[Turkey's] economy is doing very well. Our economy is doing very well. The time is right to take our relationship to the next level," Ansari told Today's Zaman. "I do not see any real reason why we cannot move forward in our bilateral relations."
Turkey became the world's fastest growing economy with 11 percent growth in the first quarter of this year and 8.8 percent growth in the second quarter, while India posted 7.7 percent growth in the three months from April to June, compared with the same period of 2010.
Stressing that unprecedented high-level exchanges between senior officials of the two countries in recent years have served to establish "familiarity with respect to each other," Ansari said there are so many mutual interests that will benefit both countries.
"[Turkey has] great expertise in the area of infrastructure, for example. Indian expertise in IT [information technologies] is well known. Is this being reflected in our bilateral relations? To some degree, yes, but not to a large extent."
Ankara Plans Full Rights for Turks in Germany
The Turkish government has drafted a bill that would allow immigrants in Germany who have forfeited their Turkish nationality in favor of German citizenship to fully benefit from civic rights in Turkey, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said.
Under the new bill, immigrants would be issued "blue cards" that would entitle them to all the rights of Turkish citizenship, Bozdağ told the Anatolia news agency.
"The blue card holders will benefit from all rights that citizens of the Turkish Republic have. They will use the card just as a [Turkish] identity card at land registries, notaries, in all kind of purchases and sales, and in all public offices," Bozdağ said.
Ankara expects Germany to support the measure as it will make it easier for Turkish emigrants to opt for German citizenship.
"It will facilitate things for Germany. The integration process will speed up," Bozdağ said, adding they would pass the bill through Parliament "in the shortest possible time."
German law requires immigrants to abandon their Turkish citizenship if they wish to adopt German nationality, a condition that has discouraged many from making the move.
Germany is home to 2.5 million Turks, mostly workers living in closed communities that are frequently under fire for poor integration records.
In a related move, the government is also planning legal arrangements to enable Turks living abroad to vote in Turkey's elections at polling stations in the countries in which they reside, Bozdağ told the news agency.
Ankara will set up a special electoral registry for expatriate Turks and may open new consulates in countries with a considerable Turkish population to facilitate their voting, Bozdağ said.
The government moved to amend existing laws after the Supreme Electoral Board, or YSK, barred expatriate Turks from voting in the June 12 parliamentary polls.
Bozdağ said about 6.5 million Turks currently live in 155 foreign countries, with Germany being home to the largest community.
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister to File Complaint Amid Growing Pressure
Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, who has been accused of leaking information to suspects in a fraud case, has announced plans to sue the main opposition leader over the matter even as the latter's party called for the minister's resignation.
"I have not met [Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal] Kılıçdaroğlu, and a meeting is out of question. Kılıçdaroğlu should reveal all the documents he has, or the documents will be revealed during the trial," Atalay said Wednesday in an interview with private broadcaster NTV.
Kılıçdaroğlu accused Atalay on Oct. 11 of being a mole who allegedly sent advance warning of an impending police search to suspects in the Deniz Feneri (Lighthouse) charity scandal case. The CHP leader showed a record of phone calls made from Atalay's office two days before the raid as a proof of his claims.
Atalay said the calls were normal.
"The Interior Ministry works with local administrations," said the deputy prime minister, who was interior minister at the time of the event. "It's normal that a mayor was called from my office. The content of that phone call should be asked to the CHP leader."
Atalay said he was "relaxed because I have answers to all accusations."
'Needs to Resign'
The main opposition party, however, made a move yesterday to increase the pressure on Atalay as Gürsel Tekin, deputy leader of the CHP, called for his resignation.
"I wonder how the minister will file a lawsuit; when all documents are real, what will he complain about?" Tekin told reporters during a press conference at the party headquarters in Ankara.
The CHP deputy leader said Atalay should abandon his post.
"I hope that there will be no need for a censure motion," Kılıçdaroğlu said. "Resignation is a tool used in democratic countries and the minister will probably do what is necessary."
Tekin said the call made from the minister's office, allegedly by Atalay's personal security head, ahead of a police raid could not be described as normal.
"Atalay says his personal security head does not even remember making the call. This is not possible. If you check out his testimony at the prosecutor's office, his memory was still fresh," Tekin said. "We also believe that the minister himself has knowledge of the situation."
Tekin also replied to Atalay's comments that the documents of an ongoing investigation should not be made public.
"Last week, my telephone conversation with journalist Nedim Şener [who is under arrest in the Ergenekon probe] was all over the media," the CHP deputy leader said. "Your conscious allows this but you criticize our party leader for revealing documents? If there is any legal strangeness [in this country], the current government is solely responsible for that."
Ergenekon is an alleged ultranationalist, shadowy gang accused of planning to topple the government by staging a coup initially by spreading chaos and mayhem. It is also thought to be an extension of or a different name for the "deep state," which is an alleged unofficial organization composed of elements from the bureaucracy and military operating behind the scenes of the official state structure.
Tekin said all documents in a dossier shown by Kılıçdaroğlu on Tuesday would soon be made public.
"We waited for the government to reveal the name, but our leader had to do it when they did not," Tekin said. "We are very firm on this issue. We can debate with ruling party members, including the minister over the Lighthouse investigation wherever they want to."
The Lighthouse was launched after a Frankfurt court in 2008 convicted three managers of the Lighthouse e.V. charity in Germany for embezzling 40 million euros. Most of the money is believed to have ended up in Turkey in the coffers of the pro-government Kanal 7 television channel and a business group whose owners are close to the AKP through the auspices of Deniz Feneri.